Celebrations abound this year for members of the local Bahá’í community. 2019 marks an important anniversary for this modern independent religion: the bicentenary of the birth of the Báb, the Herald of the Bahá’í Faith.
With more than five million followers across the globe, the Bahá’í Faith emphasises the importance of unity, seeking the goal of equality and prosperity for all nations, races, classes and creeds. Its tenets propose that all of the world’s major religions are fundamentally united, each being a separate chapter in the teachings of one God, revealed by a series of divine messengers: Buddha, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, to name a few. According to the Bahá’í Faith, the Báb is one such messenger.
The Báb was born in Persia (now Iran) in October of 1819. As a young merchant in 1844, the Báb began to produce writings calling for spiritual renewal and moral reformation, including a focus on improving the lives of the poor and the position of women in society. He declared the beginning of a new era of human history, teaching that God would send a new messenger to usher in this age of peace and justice.
The Báb soon gained thousands of followers; all inspired to transform their lives and the world around them and to protect their new faith and the revolutionary voice behind it. But the Persian authorities became wary of the Báb’s growing influence, and after a ministry that lasted just six years, he was executed by firing squad in 1850, aged just 31.
With a title that means ‘the Gate’ in Arabic, Bahá’ís believe the Báb’s mission was to prepare the way for a new prophet – Bahá’u’lláh (‘the Glory of God’), who became the official founder of the Bahá’í Faith in 1863. The bicentenary of Bahá’u’lláh’s birth was commemorated in 2017. This year, the same milestone will be celebrated for the Báb’s birth by followers all around the world, including Australia’s own Bahá’í community.
Introduced in Australia in 1920, the Bahá’í Faith now has around 20,000 followers here, spread across more than 400 communities who seek to contribute to the progress of Australian society. One of the Faith’s distinctive Houses of Worship was opened in Ingleside, Sydney, in 1961, as a place to pray, reflect, enjoy the native gardens or learn more about the religion.
The Shrine of the Báb (pictured), located on the slopes of Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel, is a place of pilgrimage for many Bahá’ís, and will no doubt be full to bursting with devotees this month. But there are plenty of local bicentenary events planned, too, with the Newcastle and Hunter Bahá’í community gathering for public celebrations throughout October and November.
On Friday, October 18, the Lake Macquarie Bahá’í community will host a celebration at Lake Macquarie Performing Arts Centre, Warners Bay, from 7pm to 9:30pm (to RSVP, email email@example.com or phone 02 4049 6302). Newcastle’s event will take place at Fort Scratchley Function Centre, Newcastle East, on Friday, 1 November from 6:30pm to 10pm (RSVP: text 0416 444 835 or visit newcastlebahai.eventbrite.com). And finally, Maitland Bahá’ís will commemorate the occasion on Saturday, November 16 from 6:30pm to 9:30pm at Rutherford Community Centre (RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org).
In 2017, the Newcastle and Hunter celebrations of the bicentenary of Bahá’u’lláh’s birth drew hundreds of people. Undoubtedly, this year’s festivities will be no different, as members of the Bahá’í community come together in the name of the Báb, his birth and the transformative power of the cause he heralded.
For more information about the Bahá’í Faith, contact 02 4049 6302, or email your local Bahá’í community at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com (Maitland).
You can also learn more at www.bahai.org.au and www.bicentenary.bahai.org, or attend Soul Food at the Art Gallery of Lake Macquarie, a free monthly community event for people of all faiths, beliefs and backgrounds: www.soulfood.com.au/lakemacquarie